This paper argues that race and class identity formation among Afro-Caribbean people, a process ongoing since the Middle Passage and the subsequent experience of slavery, occurred with even greater intensity following emancipation. Yet, this process was fitful and uneven at best, as other aspects of working people's identity, such as nationality or location, at times competed with and halted altogether the formation of possibly strategic alliances based on race and/or class. My argument develops from an examination of black working-class people's social protest in Antigua during the postemancipation period, specifically a five-day riot that began in 1858 among dockworkers but by its end involved all manner of working people in an insurgency against local authorities. Though a seemingly obscure moment in Antiguan and wider British Caribbean history, this riot illuminates the multiple, interconnected layers of identity that the Caribbean's black working people possessed during the post-emancipation period.1 The paper also utilizes this moment of upheaval to gain a window into the relationships that composed Antigua's social order, an order that was becoming increasingly frayed due in no small part to emancipation itself.
In March 1858, twenty-four years after the British abolished slavery in their Caribbean territories, Antigua erupted into popular unrest. What began as competition for jobs between dockworkers from Antigua and the neighboring island of Barbuda, developed into a five-day uprising among working-class blacks in Antigua's capital, St John's. Antiguans, who initiated the riots by inflicting violence on all known Barbudans living in St John's, soon turned their energies towards the local mixed-race and white authorities attempting to quell the violence. Ultimately, the rioters' understandings of their place within society may have caused a deliberate exclusion of certain groups from their definition of themselves as a race and class, namely the Barbudans and the mixed-race policemen. Black working-class Antiguans instead chose these groups as the objects of their collective violence.
Various forms of individual and collective resistance against other classes in a society largely shapes the individual and collective consciousness developed historically among members of a given social class. Certainly the case of working-class uprising in Antigua during 1858 demonstrates a significant example of this phenomenon at work. Certain scholars who offer critical insight into the history of subaltern resistance influence the conceptual links that I draw between resistance and consciousness of race and class in postemancipation Antigua. In this respect, E.P. Thompson's pioneering study of working people in England during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, The Making of the English Working Class (1961), presents an insightful theoretical framework for historians investigating the process by which working people come to think of themselves as a "class." While class for Thompson represents an involuntary, existential condition stemming from the relations of production, class consciousness is a process, where those of a given class construct and act upon their class interest in cultural and political ways.2 In the case of the English working class, their class consciousness fueled a "resistance movement" that challenged the "exploitative and oppressive relationships intrinsic to industrial capitalism."3 My project will apply his model to working people in postemancipation Antigua, whose increasingly politicized struggles against capitalism took place under very different circumstances in the colonial setting, but still displayed particular parallels to working classes in the metropole, in that a consciousness of their collective class-based interest as being under threat also sparked a resistance movement in 1858.
Ranajit Guha's 1981 exploration of the political nature of unpremeditated insurgency among colonial subjects in nineteenth-century India also greatly influences my work. He asserts that Indian peasant uprising stems from politically radical reasoning as well, and not just material deprivation. By considering how their social roles and the spaces they occupied facilitated the development of race and class consciousness and fueled the spread of insurgency, the actions of the formerly enslaved in Antigua will not be reduced to the basic factor of economic hardship that often times overshadows scholarly interpretation of working-class people's social protest in particular.4 I seek to expand upon the work of Thompson and Guha by discussing the effects of resistance not only upon working people's collective assertion of class interest, but also upon their consciousness of themselves as racially "othered," with their visible African descent as a primary factor in determining their degraded position in Antiguan society.
Historians who retell the experiences of disfranchised black communities of in various corners of the African Diaspora often stress the interconnectedness of race and class in the development of an oppositional consciousness to and modes of resistance against structures of power; this project will do the same.5 Furthermore, in the same fashion as class consciousness, I view Antiguan working people's changing consciousness about race as a progression toward an increasingly politicized agenda built around knowledge of racial oppression. In this vein, Robin Kelley's discussion of "'racialized' class consciousness" among African-American working people in the American South is particularly helpful in understanding what is at work among freedpeople in Antigua during the 1858 riots. Southern African-Americans' various forms of labor resistance, whether via formal or informal channels, centered not only on the awareness of material grievances, but also on the issue of racial discrimination that limited their socioeconomic potential.6 Walter Rodney's thorough review of working-class formation among Guyanese laborers (1981) offers a salient example for historians seeking to retrace the development of racialized class consciousness among Caribbean populations of color.7 His account discusses the methods by which working class Afro- and Indo-Guyanese, though largely integrated within the local labor systems, still resisted the political and economic domination of the colonial marketplace. He utilizes elite-authored sources to tease out the uneven process of class formation and the various individual and collective means of resistance that underlined this process in late nineteenth century Guyana. His concluding discussion of the 1905 riots as the culmination of ongoing daily resistance also serves as a critical model for this paper.
For the postemancipation British Caribbean, certain scholars have noted that class and race were deeply connected, as categories of upper, middle, and working class frequently correlated with the categories of white, mixed-race, and black, respectively.8 Therefore, the historical conditions in the Caribbean definitely lend themselves to the germination of a politicized consciousness among working people shaped by both class and race identity, as Antiguan working people of African descent only saw individuals like themselves within degraded socioeconomic positions, well after the advent of emancipation was theoretically supposed to reverse this trend. The story this paper seeks to tell concerns how Antiguan working people took matters into their own hands and press for the changes that state-sponsored emancipation failed to create This investigation of race and class consciousness among Antigua's black working people will necessarily engage the material circumstances specific to Antiguan society that may have influenced these individuals' decisions to riot. In this respect, my work builds upon that of other scholars who focus on Antigua's history during the late nineteenth century, and in some cases, specifically discuss the occurrence of the 1858 riots. Douglas Hall's Five of the Leewards, 1834-1870 (1971), Susan Lowes's dissertation "The Peculiar Class" (1994), and Brian Dyde's A History of Antigua (2000), at present offer the most complete interpretations of Antigua during the first three decades after emancipation, and have laid a significant foundation for this particular analysis.9 All of these works provide extremely thorough details about the structure of Antigua's post-emancipation political economy, generally from the perspective of the island's white elites, or in the case of Lowes, from the colored middle class. My work departs from theirs in my attempt to reconstruct this period from the vantage point of black working class experiences. With respect to the 1858 uprising, I propose this moment as being critical in terms of deepening politicization of this group.10
This paper thus seeks to challenge the existing interpretations of this riot by attempting to engage other factors besides the immediate and material, and will delve into other issues such as the transition to freedom, nationalism, or gender, that connect to and further complicate the already overlapping issues of race and class. Additionally, it reframes the riot experience from the perspective of the rioters themselves, reading against primary sources authored by colonial elites which often obscure subaltern voices, such as the press, traveler accounts, and colonial officers' correspondence. My analysis employs a method put forth by historical anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, who calls for specific attention to what he terms the "silences" in the existing records in order to raise questions and glean more pertinent information about the complexity of black working-class identities and social formations.11 How exactly did the post-emancipation laborers live and survive in an economically depressed and socially restricted environment? Who exactly sparked the violence? Whose interests were being represented in the riots? Whose interests might have been excluded and why?
The pre-emancipation period of Antiguan history is peppered with intermittent slave unrest that foreshadowed later labor uprisings. Within these accounts of slave organizing, early developments of race and class consciousness can be traced. David Barry Gaspar's classic study of the 1736 insurrectionist plot among Akan slaves represents a foremost example of this phenomenon at work (1985). He demonstrates how slaves grouped themselves around a particular African identity yet were also aware of their position as a social class of enslaved laborers.12 Also, in 1831, just three years before the British abolished slavery, a revolt occurred among blacks in the capital city of St John's after the legislature called for the abolition of Sunday market, an institution that provided many slaves the rare opportunity for economic advancement. Much like 1736, the 1831 Sunday market uprising signified slaves' consciousness and outright anger at their restricted position in Antiguan society.13 The long-standing history of resistance speaks to the fact that blacks recognized their disfranchised relationship to the island's elite classes and acted collectively in protest of it. In addition, the historiography of Caribbean slavery repeatedly attests to the existence of diffuse forms of everyday resistance that occurred more frequently than open rebellion, Antigua being no exception.14 The transition from slavery to free labor in the British colonies marked a continuation of this phenomenon of black working-class resistance, however the socioeconomic context within which resistance took place on the island of Antigua was altered by the changes emancipation wrought.
Following the emancipation of slavery by the British in 1834, the Antiguan economy remained firmly rooted in the sugar industry and little opportunities existed for economic diversification. In the countryside, sugar planters hoarded a majority of the available land space, and few other options for work presented themselves to laborers besides a return to the plantations. Hence the island's legislature did not even press for a transitional apprenticeship program, as was the case in all other British Caribbean colonies (with the exception of Bermuda), since black labor was still guaranteed at the time.15 However, though sugar production reigned supreme on the island, the sugar industry itself had experienced significant decline during the 1840s across the British Caribbean. In 1846, the removal of protective tariffs on West Indian sugar by Parliament stiffened competition with other sugar producing nations, with which many of the smaller islands such as Antigua, given their rather outdated methods of production, could not compete. Many Antiguan sugar estates were already in debt, and with the loss of a protected market in the metropole, the situation in the colony worsened, especially for laborers who saw wages stagnate while prices rose.16 Blacks living in the urban center of St John's, though engaged in a number of occupations besides plantation labor, such as the dockworkers at the center of the 1858 conflict, were still affected by the uncertainty of sugar, because the island's internal economy was directly tied to the fluctuations in the world sugar market. Economic decline and continued tensions within a society composed of former slaves and former masters thus formed the backdrop against which the uprising of 1858 took place.
On Monday March 22, 1858, an altercation occurred between Thomas Barnard, a Barbudan stevedore and Henry Jarvis, an Antiguan stevedore in Antigua's capital city of St John's. Their confrontation, which allegedly began in a local rum shop, eventually escalated into a five-day uprising among the black working-class population in the city that led a newspaper from the neighboring island of Dominica, the Dominican, to label Antigua as having been in an "état de siège" (a state of siege).17 The conflict arose because Barnard had been recently enjoying preference for employment over Jarvis among shipmasters coming into St John's Harbor, resulting in the former getting more jobs for himself and his crew over the latter. Barnard, who emerged victorious from the row, unfortunately felt a glory that was short-lived, because by later that evening, Jarvis, accompanied by a group of friends, sought to wreak vengeance on Barnard as well as all other known Barbudans in the area through physical violence. The following day, Tuesday 23rd, the local police were called into the matter, as a large crowd had stormed Barnard's home and tore it to pieces. The police superintendent, Edward Shorediche and Justice Lowry had quelled the riotous group and they temporarily disbanded. However by that evening, a crowd reassembled in front of the area where Barnard's home once stood, with the numbers apparently having swelled to about 300 people. This group then incited more violence, breaking into the homes of other Barbudans and "placing the occupants in a state of the utmost terror and alarm."18
The police superintendent then attempted to suppress the violence once more through a personal appeal to the rioters with no success. Given the lack of sway that words had on the group, he then armed six of the force members and ordered them to fire into the crowd. The bayonets wounded three or four rioters and dispersed the rest but not without a shower of stones being pitched from the crowd onto the policemen first.19 However, the rebels reassembled again on Wednesday the 24th, and the superintendent and Justice Lowry read the Riot Act to the crowd, which met the pair with more stones. The two men, in fright, jumped over broken fences and managed to escape into a neighboring field, probably the area known as Villa.20 The violent outbursts did not cease until the evening, with the group "apparently yielding to the entreaty of certain gentlemen who were supposed to have influence among them." By Thursday morning, the rebels had gathered in front of the police station upon learning that Barnard had taken refuge there, the intention being to find him and exact physical harm upon him; however when the group was unable to break into the station, they again took to the streets in search of other Barbudans promising to inflict more damage on them and anyone else who dared to interfere. In response, the police swore in fifty special constables as reinforcements, and by that evening, the rebels again assembled in front of the station seeking to storm the building, which housed the island's arsenal. They threw stones at the structure, breaking all the windows, and while the group cheered at what they thought was impending success in gaining entry, the armed policemen inside put forth another armed attack on the crowd, which killed five and wounded a few more.
The riot, despite the shots, continued in front of the station and on the surrounding streets in the city throughout the night, and by approximately four o'clock on the morning of Friday March 26th, the group had already found a point of entry into the station, which also housed the island's arsenal, and if penetrated, might have increased drastically the extent to which the rioters could have pursued their violent agenda. The constables and policemen inside responded with bayonets once more, killing another three and wounding more. Antigua's governor at the time, Ker Baillie Hamilton, was apparently informed of the ongoing riot earlier in the week, but made his first appearance in town only on Friday to proclaim martial law, enact an island-wide curfew, and call in mounted patrols from all the parishes to suppress the rioters. Governor Hamilton extended a plea for help to the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe as well, whose authorities sent over 150 soldiers and 24 artillerymen in assistance. Volunteers from the planter, merchant and working classes in town and from the countryside also helped in quelling the fray and obtaining some of the lawbreakers, which resulted in several arrests.21 In all, there were a total of 10 deaths, 172 arrests (115 men and 57 women), and three more women and two more men were released on bail.22
Reactions to the event among local elites and government officials tended to frame the riot as lawlessness stemming from the depravity of this "thoughtless" and "unreasonable" set, who were said to have made frequent visits to local rum shops over the course of the five days.23 Moreover, the newspapers also expressed the sentiment that the island's authorities had too delayed a response to what could have resulted in a much more life-threatening insurgency had the arsenal been overtaken. The press clearly felt that the local authorities underestimated the potential of this group of rebels. The possibility of well-armed black rioters taking possession of the capital city infused the local white Antiguan population, as well as whites of neighboring islands like Dominica, with considerable fear.24 Alongside the immediate reaction of disdain and fear among the white segment of the populace however, this five-day uprising brings forth a number of larger issues surrounding the social complexities of post-emancipation Antigua that merit in-depth review.
The 1858 riot and the subsequent public turmoil it caused in Antiguan society drew in a number of players, the intentions and identities of whom can be further explored and could become worthwhile historical studies in their own right, including the island's white elites, who used the riot to create a political frenzy that threw suspicion upon the current governor of the island, Ker Baillie Hamilton. I contend that his removal from the office of governor by 1860 definitely bore some ties to local whites' disdain at what they deemed a less than effective performance during the course of the uprising.25 Also Antigua's small but still historically significant colored middle-class population beg further exploration in this moment, because as Lowes so aptly describes, they tended to swing strategically in terms of political sympathy between the lower class of black laborers and the white elite classes depending upon the issues at stake during the decades following emancipation.26 Black estate laborers in the countryside also were apparently forced to take sides with respect to the riot.27 Their expressed preference for the restoration of law and order rather than their support for insurgency among their urban counterparts suggests again the rather complicated circumstances that may have thwarted the development of a wider Antiguan black working-class identity. Finally the insurgents themselves, as the primary set of historical actors in this moment of social upheaval, compose the focal point of this analysis. The process of identity formation and the political intent of black working class residents in St John's within the context of the riot still remains at best an obscure shadow within the sources, and will therefore have to be mined out carefully and at moments creatively re-imagined. All of these sections of Antigua's population will surface in this discussion, but again, the question of the identities and the goals of the rioters form the central questions that the paper will raise, and attempt to possibly answer.
Did the rioters have any larger designs besides the immediate project of vengeance toward Barnard and other resident Barbudans in the city? White hysteria probably functioned as a key factor in the framing of these events, given that in Antigua blacks still overwhelmingly outnumbered whites at the time of the riot, and the idea of "race war" weighed heavily on the minds of Caribbean white elites for much of the 1800s following the Haitian Revolution. Nevertheless, while whites would have had sufficient reason to sensationalize subsequent accounts of the uprising, the larger significance of this event for Antiguan race and class relations was not just a figment of white imagination. I argue that this violent and protracted outburst may have functioned as an expression among the resident working-class population of their anger at continued disfranchisement resulting from both immediate material circumstances, and their understanding of long-term social inequalities.
Because the chain of events snowballed from a personal conflict to violent mass action within a matter of days, the case can be made that the riot was unpremeditated. Furthermore, a number of individual participants may have joined the uprising for reasons other than the Barnard-Jarvis squabble; some may have not even participated at their own will but may have been drawn in by peer pressure from other participants. However, lack of planning does not necessarily equate with a lack of consciousness on the rioters' part. Guha's discussion of Indian peasant insurgency during the nineteenth century considers uprising against the interconnected structures of state and economy as "an essentially political task... There was no way for the peasant to launch into such a project in a fit of absent-mindedness."28 His analysis provides a useful framework to examine the dynamics of Antiguan laborers, who rioted under parallel circumstances. While not every single rioter may have held the same reasons for joining, it becomes worthwhile to explore the multiple issues that could have caused a common sense of unrest among members of Antigua's black laboring population.
The sources show that white elites harped on the fact that the participants in the riot were mainly black and of working-class origin; clearly the rioters themselves knew that the riot they incited was a black working-class project. The negative demarcation of these people based upon colonial and metropolitan elites' creation and continued maintenance of a social hierarchy based upon race and class had produced antagonisms among not just Antigua's population, but also among populations across the Caribbean region for centuries. But in turn, an understanding of colonial discourses of race and class certainly was not above the reach of black working people; it is not farfetched to suggest that black working class people may have utilized the experience of being marked by their race and class position toward politicized ends. While the sources do not state outright that black working people acted in class and race interest at least in part in deciding to riot, such an inference from their actions can and should be made. The available primary sources (travel narratives, newspapers and Colonial Office correspondence) generally do not feature participants' perspectives, however with what records exist of the 1858 riot, the experiences of blacks in post-emancipation Antiguan society, and the state of Antigua's political economy, I seek to review in the following sections plausible explanations that might illuminate more about the identities and the intentions of the rioters.
Increasing economic hardship and scarcity of jobs remained a foremost factor in the riot. A better understanding of who the rioters were would definitely involve a focus on their occupations. All economic prosperity or lack thereof was tied in some way to sugar, given the hold that sugar production had on the island's economy, so the steady decline in sugar beginning in the 1840s may have had much to do with the poverty that Antigua's black community was experiencing overall, port workers or anyone else for that matter. Specifically, stevedores (such as Barnard and Jarvis), who made their living by loading and unloading ships in St John's Harbor, were probably involved in what was a highly competitive and unregulated business.
Concerning Antigua's import/export market in the 1850s, many imported goods were coming in from Britain and the United States because necessary foodstuffs and supplies were not produced on the island, another result of the sugar monopoly's hold on the island's internal economy. But the proprietors of local retail shops that consumed such imports, and likely paid for the cargo contained on the vessels from abroad, often conducted business largely on the basis of credit. Planters were struggling to maintain what were failing plantations, and often bought goods on credit rather than cash. Retail markets thus suffered from limited cash flows. In addition, the import market, based upon the flows of ships into and out of the harbor, was more than likely subject to irregularity, because the timing of ships' arrivals during that period could not be precisely fixed.29
Assuming that stevedores were paid only when a ship was in the harbor and they could unload it, wages could not have been regular. If we assume also that either the ship masters or the local retailers paid stevedores for unloading cargo from the ships, the widespread credit system that limited cash flow to both parties may have translated into severely depressed wages for port workers overall. Hence, a fierce rivalry may have existed among stevedores to get jobs and maintain a living, which could have been more than enough to incite anger in a stevedore like Jarvis from the fact that Barnard and his crew were edging out all other competition.
Now, while the lack of opportunities for stevedores may have caused these two men and their respective coworkers into a conflict, what brought their personal altercation to the level of a city-wide riot? We know that the friends of both stevedores were involved in the 1858 riot, and some of them were probably stevedores themselves. But the crowd was estimated to have numbered as many as three to four hundred people during the course of the uprising. And of the 172 persons on trial afterward, only four could read and write, another 37 could only read and the rest were illiterate; which again suggests the mainly working class origin of the crowd.30 However, while we have a sense of rioters as a generic mass, the sources offer very little specifics on individual participants. Again, some consideration of the living conditions and general lack of economic opportunity that black Antiguans across the island suffered during the years leading up to the riot becomes helpful in understanding the various reasons for public expression of dissent. Over the 1840s, a series of unfortunate events exacerbated the already dire economic situation in Antigua. A fire in St John's in 1841 destroyed a valuable portion of the city. A severe earthquake followed in 1843 that caused extensive property destruction over the entire island and caused the local government to appeal to the British for a loan of £100,000. Finally a hurricane in 1848 also caused further damage costing approximately the same amount as the earthquake relief loan from five years prior.31 The local government repaid this and all other debts and financed capital improvements required after the successive natural disasters by raising taxes on imported goods, which affected the working class population as they suffered through stagnant wages and rising prices throughout the next decade.32 In addition to considerations of the cost of living, an understanding of the urban labor market in St John's might shed some light on the wider feeling of unrest among the black working population.
What other kinds of laborers may have been found in the ranks of this popular insurgency? People made their living in a number of ways in St John's, being the capital and thus the center of the island's activity. Frances Lanaghan, the wife of a planter, describes the black population in St John's during the 1840s as being engaged in a number of trades, including porters who assist in the construction and moving of the small wooden houses in which most working-class residents lived and several kinds of domestic servants (of both sexes) such as cooks, grooms, maids and "house-boys." Also her narrative contains descriptions of sailors, and attests to the prevalence of obeah practitioners, who at times had other occupations alongside this practice.33 Charles Day, a rather ill-tempered British etiquette writer who traveled to the island in 1852, spoke a great deal about the large number of black hucksters at the St John's market. Day connected the popularity of huckstering to his claim that the city's blacks were lazy, seeking "not such hard work" as what would be found on the plantation fields. He found specifically that women and children proliferated in this occupation, and sold a range of agricultural goods. His disparaging comments aside, Day's descriptions of the market as the domain of women and children suggests a gendered division of labor within freed people's households, where provisioning and marketing were the responsibility of women.34 In addition, he also notes the prevalence of fish as a major vending product, attesting to the presence of fishers among the urban population.35
Having considered a range of economic activities among the black working class in St John's, its important to consider how their livelihoods might have provided these people with sites of individual resistance that may have informed the riot. The theme of urban black laborers' "insolence" toward whites especially following abolition surfaces in both Lanaghan and Day's descriptions of black-white relations in St John's, and both insist that black laborers sought to create autonomous spaces within the workplace, much to the annoyance of white employers.36 Working-class Antiguans were well aware of and yet consistently defied whites' expectations of their humility. Their labor in particular would have brought closer, more frequent contact with upper class whites than would any other social setting; in their daily work, the seeds of resistance could have definitely been sown. Furthermore, while Lanaghan and Day portray laboring blacks as generally carefree and prosperous as a testament to their drastic improvement after emancipation, what we know about the Antiguan economy at the time intimates that most freed people's occupations were not as lucrative these accounts suggest. Just as Antiguan stevedores found it hard to make a living in 1858, one can only imagine that other laborers were having similar difficulty. The steps to collective expression of this dissent could not have been that many indeed.
The riot in 1858 may have been a vehicle through which many other impoverished city residents expressed dissent at their degraded socioeconomic position. But while individually these rebels may have sensed their own material and social distress, how did these sentiments coalesce into a larger, collective awareness of their disadvantage as a class and a race that was worth fighting against? Discussions of the stevedore rivalry may have spread amongst the townspeople, especially following the physical altercation between the two men. This recounting of the competition may have resonated with other rioters' struggles to make a living and compete for jobs in a contracted market and a power structure that discriminated against people of African descent in poorer circumstances. Likewise, we must consider the significance of methods of information sharing and how that may have developed a more coherent identity among rioters. In particular, collective action may have been facilitated through exchanges in such public meeting spaces as the rum shop. According to the Dominican, "In the afternoon the mob became more riotous and disorderly, which was caused no doubt, in some degree by their frequent visits to the Rum Shops in the neighbourhood."37 With regard to the rum shop, the article mentions this detail as a way to establish the drunkenness and imply the moral depravity of the rebels. However, from this bit of information we can surmise that the rum shop was used as a space for public expression among disillusioned individuals that allowed them to commiserate over their plight.38 Possibly the rum shop was not just a space for mere casual interaction, but may have also allowed for plans of action to address their grievances, which encouraged their politicization as a group and in retrospect, might make the existence of a larger conspiracy a stronger possibility. While the labor grievances and the material circumstances surrounding the riot must be considered, other salient issues also underlie the contestation of the wider political power structure in Antigua that 1858 might have been.
The 1858 riot occurred less than twenty-five years after the British abolition of slavery, with participants who might have considered the oppressiveness of the slave system both in both their recent and long-term memory when they chose to riot.39 One must engage the possibility that at least some rioters were conscious of their identities as either the descendants of slaves, or if some were old enough, as former slaves themselves, which signified centuries of subjugation for blacks at the hands of colonial white authorities. Thomas Holt (1992) tells us that in Jamaica, emancipation and the accompanying doctrine of "freedom," however contradictory and racially circumscribed the British definition was, had an effect on the desires of the formerly enslaved to gain a higher level of autonomy over their persons and the fruits of their labor.40 We can safely assume that Antiguan ex-slaves held quite similar desires as well. Additionally, working-class blacks in Antigua and across the Caribbean region likely expected that their new status would translate into material progress and increased social standing in relation to white elites. Even white elites were highly sensitive to the fact that emancipation had changed the worldview of freed women and men; the sources display whites' anxiety over how this change manifested itself on even the most basic levels of freed people's culture.41
But freedom, while it had obvious effects on the culture of the black working class, brought them no material gains given their generally unaltered socioeconomic status following slavery's abolition. A new worldview combined with the familiar experience of unrealized hopes could have very well culminated in violent upheaval. From the perspective of white elites involved in suppressing and relaying the story of the 1858 riot, a sentiment definitely existed that rioters held larger designs of a more politically subversive nature and that island-wide security was at risk. The tone of the press coverage and Colonial Office correspondence, which insists that the uprising stemmed from a premeditated conspiracy for which the stevedore rivalry was just a cover-up, speaks just as much to the sensationalizing effect of white fear on black action as it does to the possibility of well-planned black subversion of oppressive white authority that persisted well after the chains of slavery were supposedly long removed.42
If we remember, by the close of the riot, the Antiguan insurgents shifted focus from the Barbudans to launch an attack on the police station with the possible intent to raid the arsenal, in the meanwhile stoning leading members of the white community trying to appeal for peace. We see in the sources for example, pride evidenced by a rather bold female stone thrower in the riot, by the name of Mary, who was said to have publicly exclaimed to her friend in the presence of several authorities, "I say, Katy, if [the sergeant of police] Harley was dead, I killed him with half a brick!"43 While black working people's antagonism for local white power-holders or their mixed race representatives (that is, the police) might have certainly intensified as the riot progressed, it is safe to say that such antagonism might have had a long history branching back to the era of slavery. Anger that 1858 in many ways resembled 1834, or even 1800, for Antigua's black working population, becomes a plausible reason for direct attacks on authority.
A number of references appear in the sources about black working-class women in particular being prominent in the front lines of the 1858 conflict, such as the aforementioned enthusiastic stone thrower Mary. Further details are lacking on who these women were and what prompted their participation in these struggles. The accounts have certainly portrayed this as a tale of male bravado, given its origins as a fistfight between port workers; however, colonial officers' correspondence and the press both deliberately included the detail that women were just as unruly if not more than the men, and that a number of women faced prosecution for their roles in this public disturbance. Might these descriptions be aimed at masculinizing and therefore justifying the equally harsh punishments meted to women and men alike, or can historians use this as an opportunity to bring women's obscure presence to light not just in the context of the 1858 riot, but also in post-emancipation Antiguan history overall?
The moment of uprising temporarily broke down worlds circumscribed by gender, as men and women pitched stones and fought alongside one another in the conflict. But analyzing the dynamics of the riot through a gendered lens raises another issue, namely whether their participation in this act of collective violence, and their subsequent descriptions in the record as part of an indistinguishable mass of rebels may have obscured gendered differences in goals and expectations from this uprising. The various sources, while providing limited details about the men, remain conspicuously silent about who the women in the riot were and what their objectives might have been. These women, though privy to concerns of race and class, might have had particular grievances that they were acting upon when they chose to join what began as a male-centered conflict.
The household economy of black laboring Antiguans provides fertile ground for historical imagination here, as it was contingent upon the broader decline in the post-emancipation sugar economy. Women traditionally faced the balancing act of managing household affairs such as childcare and cleaning, while maintaining mechanisms for material survival of the family, such as provisioning, and other forms of waged labor that carried them outside the home, as Charles Day's descriptions of the St John's market suggests. While wider kin networks may have provided women with assistance, it is conceivable that economic downturn in the late 1840s and early 1850s may have upset the balance for working women, creating friction with men over the sharing of household responsibility. Their choice to throw stones with the men of the town may intimate their awareness that macro-level political and economic developments had direct effects on the state of their homes. Besides the imbalance within household economy, numerous other plausible gendered grievances could have existed that the sources at present are obscuring. In particular, the possibility of gendered differences in the expectations that women and men had for themselves following emancipation could have informed women's bold nature in the course of violence. Douglas Hall (1978) and Bridget Brereton (1999), among other historians, have questioned whether black women desired and were even able to withdraw themselves from waged labor in large numbers after British West Indian emancipation, and sources from Antigua suggest that women there did not enjoy that luxury.44 Might these unmet expectations have led to gendered differences in the grievances women participants harbored? So far, this reflection on gendered relations in post-emancipation Antigua raises more questions than it answers; only further research will provide more insight on this subject.
Thus far, the analysis has presented the rioters' actions as stemming from dissatisfaction with the constraints that colonialism and the white elites empowered by this system placed upon their livelihood and existence. Nevertheless, the immediate enemies they identified were the Barbudans in their midst and the mixed-race policemen sent to quell them, suggesting that Antiguan working people in 1858 placed particular limits on what it meant to be "black" and "working class." Broadly speaking, the concepts of "class" and "race" themselves are social constructs, always contingent and ever-changing based upon the subjective actions of individuals and the circumstances of time and space.45 Therefore, frameworks based on class and race formation can be most useful to an analysis like this when noted for their fluidity, and furthermore their intersection and even competition at times with other categories that composed the rioters' (along with all other Antiguans') identities.
For example, the portrayal of Antigua as a "nation" onto itself is not exactly accurate, given its status in 1858 as a colony of the British, and the fact that the "nation" as a concept and "nationalism" as its offshoot were still developing in the nineteenth-century western world. But the question of nationalism still enters the discussion of the 1858 riot as it largely informed the consciousness of the rioters. They were specific (at least at the outset of the uprising) in constructing Barbudans in St John's, though members of the same race, who lived in the same communities, and worked in comparable occupations as their Antiguan counterparts, as being opposed to their collective expression of black working class determinism. Under different circumstances, a broader sense of shared racial and class identity might have driven these black working-class Antiguans to cast their lot with their Barbudan counterparts to launch an attack of an even grander scale against the more formidable enemy to their race, the white planter class. But in this instance, racial and class solidarity among the rebels might have been trumped by a feeling of national antagonism as it supported their immediate material interests of protecting their precarious class position in society, since competition for jobs underlined this nativist sentiment. Antiguan working-class insurgents were said to have been roaming the streets during the course of the five days exclaiming that "foreigners had come to take bread out of the mouths of 'the people'..."46 "The people" thus had a direct investment in ousting the foreign (that is, the Barbudan) threat to their livelihood by any means, including violence.
Barbuda's complicated historical relationship to Antigua very likely informed the antagonism that may have existed between Barbudans and Antiguans residing in St John's at the time of the riot. Douglas Hall informs us that the slave experience in Barbuda was perceived as relatively lighter versus slavery on Antiguan plantations, as the topsoil could not support cane production, eliminating the toil of sugar millwork from Barbudan slaves' existence. During the era of slavery, the island's proprietors, the Codrington family, sent slaves from Barbuda to work on their Antiguan plantations as punishment; in some cases however, Barbudans landing in St John's, instead of reporting to work in the country, would remain with friends in the city and obtain a de facto freedom. The historical perception of black Barbudans as having an easier experience with slavery and colonialism, as they fell outside of the jurisdiction that limited the freedoms of black Antiguans, may have sparked some anger and jealousy among black Antiguan working people.47 The stevedore rivalry was a catalyst for bringing these longstanding tensions to the surface. Here the theory of displaced aggression under the structures of colonialism offered by Franz Fanon (1961) can also offer some insight into the complex relationship between Barbudans and Antiguans as well. In his discussion of colonial subjects in Algeria, he notes that while the blows from the white settlers or policemen are tolerated, the slightest affront by a fellow member of the oppressed tends to elicit instant retaliation, "...you will see the native reaching for his knife at the slightest hostile or aggressive glance cast on him by another native; for the last resort of the native is to defend his personality vis-à-vis his brother."48
We will now shift the focus, as did the Antiguan rioters over the course of the five days, from the Barbudans to the policemen, as the relationship between working-class black insurgents and mixed-race policemen also gives us a sense of how the former may have constructed their sense of racial identity. The members of the St John's police force were mostly of mixed European and African descent, and were chosen to serve because of their trustworthiness among the planter class, as suggested in a number of sources regarding the origins of public law enforcement in Antigua since the early 1800s.49 The governor as well as other legislators also acknowledged in their private correspondence the already-mentioned dubious position that the colored middle class occupied at this time, as they tended to move tactically between the position of advocating for the working class plight and degrading the working class to eschew white elite opinion. William Sewell, an American traveler to Antigua in 1860, entirely dismissed the riot of its significance to local race relations because it was primarily between two factions of blacks and only spread to a vengeance against a mainly mixed-race police force.50 However, the politics of the insurgents' actions might also be gleaned from the fact that the policemen were connected to the larger plantocratic power structure. Much like the Barbudans, these rebels denied the mixed-race policemen their racial solidarity, but for different reasons. Clearly the rioters would have extended their vengeance to the policemen, given their role as the suppressors of this revolt. But there probably existed an additional sense among rioters that they could best express their dissatisfaction with white colonial authority via attacks upon their more accessible peons, the local police.
Nevertheless, while working-class black insurgents generally viewed mixed-race and white authorities as standing on the opposite side of their struggle, the sources also highlight rare moments of collaboration between those policing and those perpetrating the violence, which complicates even further what we know about class and race relations especially as they manifested in 1858. Christopher Henry, whose story attracted the attention of a major newspaper in Antigua during the course of the trials, was not specifically identified as colored or middle class, but apparently occupied enough of a upstanding position within the social stratum on the island to "by misrepresentation and falsehood, [induce] the Police Magistrate to swear him in as a Special Constable, though he was actively engaged in encouraging the mob in pursuit of Barnard... and encouraged the assault of Mr Adlam, and threatened that gentleman with personal violence."51 The article also goes on to discuss his rather lenient sentencing to fifteen months' imprisonment versus other innocent bystanders, such as one William Smith, found guilty by association with some rioters and jailed for as long as three years; yet another indication that Henry might have benefited from social connections that other participants may not have. His simultaneous roles as both a trusted member of society and an instigator of violence might be exceptional, but still historically important as it proves the fact that not every member of "better" social classes on the island would automatically see themselves as opposed to working people's struggles.
Just as it seems unclear what the allegiances of socially ascendant groups might have been in the context of 1858, it was also unclear where rural members of the Antiguan working class stood. As mentioned earlier, a number of statements emerged from villages in the countryside that directly denounced the actions of the rioters in town. The language employed in these statements spoke of "devoted loyalty to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen" and remained insistent that rural residents had no knowledge of the uprising until after it ended. Furthermore these petitions played up the villagers' intent on keeping the peace given their progress thus far after "England conferred upon [them] the blessing of Freedom."52 These rather telling quotes also suggest that direct connections were being drawn between the violence of 1858 and the possible dissatisfaction among participants with the outcome of emancipation thus far. But furthermore, laboring black Antiguans in the countryside could not be blamed for using such statements in attempts to preserve their already precarious position in society, especially during a moment like this when the conflagration in town was throwing suspicion on all those who could be marked as black and working class.
However, while some black rural dwellers in name divorced themselves from the political subversion put forth by their urban counterparts, the actions of others suggests a closer identification with the 1858 uprising. On 25th March, the same day as the attempted break-in at the police station, a property dispute arose on George Byam's Estate in the parish of St Mary between the proprietor, Mr Foreman, and Mr Rodin, the attorney representing Luckie Bros. & Co., to whom Foreman was indebted. A fistfight ensued between Rodin and Foreman's brother, but also, by the time the police were summoned, an unspecified number of laborers had apparently become "riotous" themselves, "taking part on either side" of the dispute.53 The disquieted laborers were only calmed when threatened with a reading of the Riot Act. Again, as in the larger conflagration in town, a smaller, more personal dispute initially sparked the conflict, but it subsequently escalated to a point where Byam's Estate stood on the brink of riotous violence. Possibly laborers may have been stirred by the difficulties that Foreman was having with his creditors, but the rather uncertain relationship between plantation laborers and employers in postemancipation Antigua certainly begs the investigation of other factors. Given the fact that the capital had been enmeshed in a working-class uprising for the two days prior to the dispute at Byam's, and the fact that black laboring people island-wide would have welcomed any opportunities available to publicly voice their dissent, the chance exists that the 1858 riot had reverberations extending well beyond the city limits.
The 1858 riot offers inklings that working-class black Antiguans were undergoing a rapid development of class and race consciousness since emancipation and even before; but the complexities within this moment shows that the formation of consciousness was not seamless or automatic. Ultimately, the shifting allegiances within this moment of resistance demonstrate the uneven and fitful ways in which class and race identity formation historically took place. On the one hand, the rioters' summarily excluded the Barbudans and the policemen from the black working class project that this uprising definitely was, and similarly, colored middle class Antiguans and rural working Antiguans voluntarily dissociated themselves from the conflict. Yet on the other hand, individuals such as Henry and the laborers on Byam's estate, who unexpectedly cast their lot with the rioters in the heat of the moment, temporarily blurred these lines of social stratification. We are left to wonder what the effects of 1858 would have been had these various segments of Antigua's black population overcome the circumstances that splintered their allegiances.
The 1858 riot assumes additional historical significance when viewed in wider a regional and colonial context. 1858 was generally leaderless and was not infused with an explicit politicized dogma, but if we take the actions of Antigua's black working people as historical text, this event still had many deeper implications for the extremely political issue best encapsulated by Thomas Holt as "the problem of freedom."54 The disgruntled masses of black people, in Antigua and across the Caribbean, still burning with the experience of slavery and the immediate overhaul into a cheap waged labor force with little to no political rights after 1834, understandably held a number of grievances. Mainly excluded from the formal channels of political expression available at the time, the best means for Afro-Caribbean working people to send a clear message to the existing powers that be was violence. And this message was certainly sent, not just in Antigua, but also throughout the region.
A number of uprisings had occurred within the first three decades after emancipation in the British Caribbean. The sources show that local Antiguan administrators were certainly well aware of this sense of regional unrest among freed people and their descendants, and questioned the possibility of how that connected to the upheaval in Antigua. In the same token then, one cannot assume that the black working population existed in a vacuum-they too received news of the riots in St Kitts in 1834 upon the announcement of the apprenticeship program, or of the 1844 Guerre Negre riots in Dominica, which Michel-Rolph Trouillot tells us escalated among black laboring Dominicans from a rumor that census takers in the rural villages were clandestinely using these rosters to "take names" for the purpose of re-enslavement.55 The 1858 riot also takes place only two years after the famed Indian mutiny, a conflagration that sent shockwaves throughout the British Empire. Disgruntled colonial subalterns were ultimately taking matters into their own hands the world over. Especially when considering that a group of dockworkers lay at the center of the 1858 conflict, the individuals who were at ports regularly and thus the first to hear of important news happening elsewhere in the world, an investigation of this uprising in a wider context also brings forth more historical clues as to how information was acquired, spread, and tactically used among black working people involved in the simultaneous processes of identity formation and social protest. So while Antigua and its inhabitants faced specific circumstances not found elsewhere that definitely bore influence on the outbreak of violence, the importance of understanding that the riot unfolded in an atmosphere of wider colonial unrest is key.
When looking at the situation on the ground, the aftermath of the riot created a bleak situation for the Antiguan black working class. Material and political progress was not won for Antigua's black population from this uprising. Antigua's economic decline continued, and black working- class people remained impoverished, second-class citizens for decades afterward. In the years immediately following the riot, the security of the island increased with the reestablishment of the previously abolished militia, which clearly had as its target the "troublesome" black laboring population who needed to be reminded of their "proper place."56 The colonial administrators, already invested in disfranchising blacks politically, now had more reason to do so after the riots; by 1870 Antigua formed a federated colony with five of the other Leeward Islands, and the minute portion of the local legislature that was popularly elected was reduced even further. Now the local government, previously unconcerned with the plight of black working classes, had become even more distant and in the words of Dyde, "unresponsive... [believing] the future of the sugar economy was much more important than the future of the people."57 And unfortunately, because the riot was completely suppressed and a number of the participants were imprisoned, their intentions cannot be deduced from the outcome of the events.
So what did the rioters really hope to achieve with violent action? The Antiguan press and many of the local administrators initially considered the riot sheer lawlessness, then, within a few days the press relates that Antiguan lawmakers came to regard this event as something much larger than just a fistfight. The sources, however, do not reveal if there existed a politicized discourse emerging from the crowd of Antiguan insurgents, as found in many other uprisings at the time, hence the paper has largely attempted a creative re-imagining of the politics behind the 1858 to offer possibilities. They instead dismiss it as another instance of black unruliness disrupting Antigua's already unstable transition from a slave to a free labor economy. There is no clear intimation of what concrete gains these rioters hoped to acquire had the arsenal had been taken and the scale of violence become intensified. The possibility can be engaged, though, that blacks did wish to take over the city, and with ammunition in hand, would have extended their vengeance to local white elites much in line with the history of armed revolution ongoing in the Atlantic World over the course of the 1800s. Realistically though, these grander designs, if they existed, may have been severely compromised by their rather exclusive definition of themselves as a race and a class that excluded certain useful sets of possible allies, such as the Barbudans and policemen. Especially in their vigilant opposition to Barbudans, we not only see how race and class identity formation among working-class black Antiguans was constantly being negotiated, sometimes in contradictory ways; but also how the constraints of colonialism can place its subjects simultaneously in the positions of both oppressor and oppressed.
On another level, the real object of Antigua's black women and men resorting to such force might have been to realize both the material and ideological promises of freedom they felt they deserved, and that the larger socioeconomic structure continued to deny them daily, even though slavery was abolished. Walter Rodney, as he concludes his volume on the history of working-class resistance in Guyana, notes that despite the incomplete formation of class identity, the mere recognition of the various means to realize "their vision of betterment" and the pursuit of self-expression within an era of colonial "authoritarianism" in itself "constitutes a definite historical achievement."58 The same can be said of Antiguan working people, who in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, still attempted to resist authority, articulate a collective identity and utilize this identity to press for immediate change in their society.
1A quick note about language: The words "riot" and "rioters" carry very negative connotation that suggests unruliness and unlawfulness among these historical actors to which I do not subscribe. Understandably this language represents the perspective of the island's white elites, who would have a stake in labeling this event in such a critical fashion, however, this is the language that emerges from the primary sources. I have yet to settle on suitable terminology, thus I employ it throughout my analysis, at times also using the terms "uprising" and "rebels" to discuss the events and actors as well. In addition, the terms "laborers," and "working class" are used to signify both plantation workers in Antigua's countryside and the workers in various trades within the urban center of St John's. "Black" is used to designate individuals of mainly African descent, "mixed-race" or "colored" for those of both African and European heritage, and "white" for those of European descent. All of the above terms are very general and may not necessarily convey the complexities of identities to be found within each group, however, I feel this terminology best suits my objectives. Furthermore, my analysis hopes to further expose some of the complexities that the terms themselves may not communicate on their own.
2Edward P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 9-10.
4Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983. Reprint, Durham: Duke University Press, 1999). A larger research project with which I am currently engaged will also attempt to consider opportunities for further comparison with colonial subjects elsewhere in the British Empire as a way to shed greater light on how the exercise of colonial power was contested individually and collectively by the colonized in Antigua.
5A selected list of works in this vein would include C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (Dial Press, 1938; second edition, New York: Vintage Books, 1963); Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (London: Zed Press, 1983); Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1961; reprint edition, New York: Grove Press, 1965); Manning Marable, African & Caribbean Politics: From Kwame Nkrumah to the Grenada Revolution (London: Verso, 1987); Frederick Cooper, Thomas C. Holt, and Rebecca J. Scott, Beyond Slavery: Explorations of Race, Labor, and Citizenship in Postemancipation Societies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).
6Robin Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York: The Free Press, 1994), 26.
7Walter Rodney, A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905, Johns Hopkins Studies in Atlantic History and Culture, ed. Richard Price (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981).
8Smith, M. G., The Plural Society in the British West Indies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965); Smith, Raymond. T. "Social Stratification, Cultural Pluralism and Integration in West Indian Societies" in Caribbean Integration: Papers on Social, Political and Economic Integration, ed. S. Lewis and T. Mathews (Rio Piedras: Institute of Caribbean Studies, 1967), 226-258; idem., "Race, Class, and Gender in the Transition to Freedom," in Frank McGlynn and Seymour Drescher, ed. The Meaning of Freedom: Economics, Politics and Culture after Slavery. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992, 257-290; William Green, British Slave Emancipation: The Sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment, 1830-1865. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.
9Douglas Hall, Five of the Leewards, 1834-1870: The Major Problems of the Post-Emancipation Period in Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis and St. Kitts. (Barbados: Caribbean University Press, 1971); Susan Lowes, "The Peculiar Class: The Formation, Collapse, and Reformation of the Middle Class in Antigua, West Indies, 1834-1940," (Ph.D. diss, Columbia University, 1994); Brian Dyde, A History of Antigua: The Unsuspected Isle (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2000).
10Of the two scholars who discuss the riot: Hall goes into some depth regarding 1858 and relates the event to a renewed interest in security issues among colonial elites, as well as larger questions about the historical relationship of Antigua with Barbuda. He does not present this as an expression of black working class determinism. Dyde's treatment of the riot is comparatively less detailed and constructs 1858 as a sign of continued planter hegemony rather than as a sign of changing consciousness among black people.
11Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon, 1995), 102-107, discusses at great length the "silencing" of the slaves' motivations to revolt during the Haitian Revolution, as produced by uneven configurations of power in the making of the archival sources which chronicle Haiti's emergence as a nation. An individual's power to record any moment in history (and to thus create a primary source) stems from a broader context of power relations in society, which affords elite classes increased literacy, access to print, and credibility. This relationship of power is then reproduced as historians utilize these sources without questioning how they possibly silence other key voices in the historical narrative. My project will approach the sources on Antiguan post-emancipation history, especially concerning the riots, with efforts to locate silenced voices of the black working class population based upon Trouillot's theoretical position.
12David Barry Gaspar, Bondmen and Rebels: A Study of Master-Slave Relations in Antigua. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985).
13Dyde, A History, 126-127.
14To name a few key works: Hilary McD Beckles, Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society (1999); Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society 1650-1838 (1990); Carolyn Fick, The Making of Haiti (1990); Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies (1982); Michael Mullin, Africa In America: Slave Acculturation and Resistance in the American South and the British Caribbean, 1736-1831 (1991).
15Dyde, A History, 132-33; Hall, Five of the Leewards, Chapter 2.
16Dyde, A History, 168.
17The details of the five-day riot are taken from the 7 April 1858 issue of the Dominican (Roseau, Dominica), which states that the article was based upon the March 27, 1858 Antigua Weekly Times (St John's, Antigua) coverage of the disturbances, and are also taken from CO 7/110, 10 May 1858 Court of Oyer and Terminer statement of Chief Justice to Grand Jury at the start of the ensuing trials. Also, the 10 April 1858 Port of Spain Gazette (Port of Spain, Trinidad) carried coverage of the disturbances, but no specific Antiguan newspaper is named as a source; the article instead cites that "a friend with Antigua newspapers from 29th ult." provided the Gazette with this information. It is likely that the Gazette's article might be an amalgamation of several accounts and may not be as reliable as the Dominican's extended coverage. The court statement may also be unreliable due to the significant period of time that passed between the riot and the trials. However, discrepancies between the two newspapers and the court statement will be noted in my analysis. The claim that the Barnard-Jarvis conflict began in a rum shop comes from an opinion column in the 14 April 1858 Dominican that contained an unsourced quote: "In the afternoon, the mob became more riotous and disorderly, which was caused no doubt, in some degree by their frequent visits to the Rum Shops in the neighborhood."
187 April 1858, Dominican.
19The Port of Spain Gazette also says that the police fired shots on Tuesday but without injury to those in the crowd.
20The Port of Spain Gazette identifies this field as Villa, which suggests that the altercation took place in the area known as the Point, the district that lies on the city limits of St John's and directly neighbors the Villa area. Point has historically been home to the urban working classes in Antigua and also stands in close proximity to the waterfront in St John's, suggesting that port workers such as Jarvis and Barnard likely would have resided in this area. In her discussion of a later labor riot in 1918 (which was also led by four men from the Point) Susan Lowes, "The Peculiar Class: The Formation, Collapse, and Reformation of the Middle Class in Antigua, West Indies, 1834-1940," (Ph.D. diss, Columbia University, 1994), p 282, declares that Point was "an area long considered a law unto itself." While she does not directly connect this sentiment to previous historical moments, the possibility exists that the area's reputation may have been earned through events such as the 1858 riot.
21Dyde, History of Antigua, 163.
22Court of Oyer and Terminer. Note that the Dominican, 5 May 1858 states that 142 men and 46 women were included in those sent to trial while the Port of Spain Gazette reports a total of 147 people imprisoned with "no less than 60 women" included in that group. Either way, while some discrepancy exists as to how many were present in the fray, the presence of a considerable number of rioters cannot be denied. Questions about their role in the riot will also be approached at a later point.
2314 April 1858, Dominican.
25See 26 June 1858, Antigua Times for an article concerning the ongoing political drama regarding Hamilton's performance in office. Also see CO 7/110, December 1858 section for a number of appeals written from upper-class Antiguans to Lord Stanley, the MP representing the Leeward Islands at the time, pressing for Hamilton's removal from office.
26See Lowes, "The Peculiar Class," Chapters 4 and 5.
27See CO 7/110, December 1858 section, where six written petitions to Governor Hamilton are contained, all signed by a number of country residents from areas such as Liberta, Bethesda, and Darby's Estate, etc. who sought to counter the suspicion that the rural working population was "wanting in loyalty and good conduct." In one particular letter was mentioned another petition written by local whites suggesting that 1858 was really an island-wide conspiracy that country laborers were supporting, to which these expressions of loyalty were probably a direct response. More about country laborers' loyalties will be discussed in a later section of the paper.
28Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency, 8-9.
29Hall, Five of the Leewards, 128-136.
30CO 7/110, 10 May 1858 Court of Oyer and Terminer.
31Alexander R. Lockhart, comp. The Leeward Islands Almanack, with which is incorporated the Dominica Almanack. 1879. London: Yates and Alexander, 1879, 116.
32Dyde, History of Antigua, 169.
33Lanaghan, Antigua and the Antiguans, 50-54, 133, 135. "House-boys" is the term white Antiguans used to refer to their male domestic servants. Obeah is a West African-based cosmological system of beliefs, prevalent among blacks in the British Caribbean since slavery.
34Charles William Day, Five Years' Residence in the West Indies. London: Colburn & Co., 1852, 271.
35Ibid., 272. He calls the St John's market "wretched," noting that the produce being sold was "only fit for Negroes." Day's remark about the agricultural goods, though critical, still has some value in that it suggests the existence of provision grounds as a means of livelihood and subsistence pursued by black working-class individuals.
36For example, Lanaghan, Antigua and the Antiguans, 141, asserts that "...[She has] never met with one black domestic who acts with the same degree of propriety as most of the English servants do. If you keep them at their proper distance, they become dissatisfied, and complain of your being harsh to them; if, on the contrary, you shew them any degree of attention, and try to make their situation as comfortable as possible, they then assume too much, and entirely forget the difference of rank." Day, Five Years', 274, follows in this same vein declaring "the St John's Negroes [to be] amongst the most turbulent and insubordinate of the whole..."
3714 April 1858, Dominican.
38Mary Kay Vaughan, "Cultural Approaches to Peasant Politics in the Mexican Revolution," Hispanic American Historical Review 79 (2): 1999, 277-282, discusses the recent attention to the politics of space and identity as categories of interaction that allows for "new forms of subaltern association" with respect to historiography on the Mexican Revolution. These revisionist narratives of the Mexican Revolution, she says, stem from the influence of cultural studies theory upon older political-economic analyses. With respect to space, Vaughan asserts on p. 277 "the ways we perceive, value and occupy physical space are themselves shaped by our spatially organized communities (ranging from local villages to nation-states) and sites within them that socialize us, create symbolic meaning and articulate unequal power relations." Furthermore she says on p 282:
The notion of social space is closely related to the concept of identity. Indeed, identity is shaped at sites of socialization.... While forged in local experience, identity is not formed in isolation, but in relation to broader social formations, information systems, events and interaction with the state. It reflects and constitutes ... unequal power relations. Identity is gendered, establishing different behaviors, expectations and power relations for men and women.
Her theoretical position helps to illuminate some of the considerations I am attempting to explore in this and the next sections regarding cultural identity politics in the 1858 riots with respect to the rum shop as a site where class and race consciousness was fostered.
39Steve Stern, "New Approaches to the Study of Peasant Rebellion and Consciousness: Implications of the Andean Experience," in Stern, ed. Resistance, Rebellion and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, 18th to 20th Centuries (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 11 calls for historians to pay attention to the "conjunctures" existing between immediate experience and longer historical memory that equally informed the consciousness of these rebels, a concept quite useful to the present analysis.
40Thomas Holt. The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), Chapter 5 lays out an insightful discussion of the ways in which Jamaican freedpeople's visions of the meaning of freedom directly contradicted British colonial authorities' expectations of freedpeople's behavior in the post-emancipation era, a conflict Holt termed the "problem of freedom." This paradox, while rooted in his study of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion, has striking implications for the Antigua riot in 1858.
41Mrs [Frances T.] Lanaghan, Antigua and the Antiguans: A full account of the colony and its inhabitants from the time of the Caribs to the present day, London: Saunders & Otley, 1844, vol. 2, 94; 125 discusses what she deems the undesirable practices among black laborers in post-emancipation St John's of trying to dress, name themselves, and educate themselves in the way of ladies and gentlemen. Robin D. G. Kelley, "We Are Not What We Seem: Rethinking Black Working-Class Opposition in the Jim Crow South," Journal of American History 80 (1): 86 finds quite similar methods of everyday resistance among blacks in the American South, particularly the use of dress as a way to assert their "collective identity" as a "public challenge to the dominant stereotypes of the black body, and shoring up a sense of dignity that was perpetually under assault."
423 April 1858, Antigua Times; 9 June 1858, Dominican; also see CO 7/110, Governor Hamilton to Bulwer, MP, 28 July 1858.
43CO 7/110 Governor Hamilton to Bulwer, MP, 28 July 1858.
44Douglas Hall. "The Flight from the Estates Reconsidered: The British West Indies, 1838-42." Journal of Caribbean History 10-11 (1978): 7-24; Bridget Brereton, "Family Strategies, Gender, and the Shift to Wage Labour in the British Caribbean" in Bridget Brereton and Kelvin Yelvington, eds. The Colonial Caribbean in Transition: Essays on Postemancipation Social and Cultural History (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999), 77-107.
45E.P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class (1961) states that an individual's class origin is not voluntary, but the choice to behave in class ways, usually in opposition to other existing classes in a given society, is, and therefore the consciousness of class becomes a process subject to the circumstances of time and space. The significance of race historically takes shape in similar ways via the subjective actions of individuals or groups seeking to mark themselves or others as racially distinct entities, again making race consciousness an element of identity germinating from performance. See Oliver Cromwell Cox, Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics (Garden City: Doubleday, 1948); Barbara Jeanne Fields, "Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America," in New Left Review 181 (1990), 95-118; David Theo Goldberg, ed., Anatomy of Racism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990); Ivan Hannaford, Race: The History of an Idea in the West (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996) for further discussion.
46CO 7/110, 10 May 1858, Court of Oyer and Terminer statement.
47See Hall, Five of the Leewards, 64-65 where Hall describes the instances where Barbudans came to Antigua and illegally obtained their freedom, such as one Thomas Beager, who in 1813 caused quite a stir in the Antiguan press over this very issue, formed one moment in a long standing history of inter-island antagonism, not just among white elites, but also among the black working class as well. See ibid., Chapter 4 for a detailed explanation of the history of Barbuda as a property that was privately leased by the British government to the Codrington family, owners of some of Antigua's wealthiest sugar plantations. Barbuda was used specifically for livestock raising and lumber production to supply the family's Antiguan plantations; a direct financial flow existed between Barbuda and the Codringtons' possessions in Antigua. As private property, the laws governing Antigua had no jurisdiction in Barbuda, thus there was no legislation to force expatriate Barbudans back into slavery. At the moment of emancipation, Barbuda, as private property, along with the 500 or so slaves residing there presented a very tenuous legal dilemma for the Antiguan legislature. Antigua through the Codringtons, had trade connections with, but no legal jurisdiction over Barbuda. The 1840s-1880s were marked with ongoing legal disputes regarding both the status of legal codes in Barbuda, and when the Codrington lease expired, over the question of whether the colony should be administered through private lease. By 1858 Barbuda was coming to be perceived by Antiguan elites as a place of complete lawlessness where no code of behavior applied, and the riots did not help this situation any. Hall frames the entire discussion of the 1858 riots with respect to security issues in Barbuda as they related to the larger dispute over legal jurisdiction.
48Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1961; reprint edition, New York: Grove Press, 1965), 54.
49See CO 7/109, 22 May 1858, Merivale to Lord Carmaron, MP and Lord Stanley, MP for his discussion of why Antigua's "respectable coloured" made the best possible choice for a police force, especially to deal with "popular riots and tumults... originat[ing] in divisions of race and colour." Also see William Sewell, The Ordeal of Free Labour in the British West Indies (London: Sampson Low & Co, 1862; reprint London: Frank Cass & Co., 1968), 150; and Five of the Leewards, 66 for Douglas Hall's discussion of Henry Loving, an upstanding mixed-race Antiguan who had gained the respect of many whites and became the first mixed-race superintendent of police. Also Dyde, History of Antigua, 120, 152.
50Sewell, The Ordeal, 150.
5115 June 1858, The Weekly Register (St John's, Antigua). Mr Adlam is a local white gentleman, who is said in the article to have been asked by Col. Byam (assumedly of the police force) to explain the meaning of martial law to the people and encourage them to return to their homes in the maintenance of peace.
52See CO 7/110, December 1858 section; also see note 27 of this paper for further discussion of the significance of these petitions.
53CO 7/110, 25th March 1858, Shorediche to Grantun (2 letters); also CO 7/110, 7th July 1858, Shorediche to Humphreys.
54Holt's insightful 1992 volume on labor and race politics in postemancipation Jamaica bears this phrase as its title. The meaning of this term was discussed in earlier sections of the paper. See note 40 of this paper for further clarification.
55See CO 7/39, 22nd August 1834, Governor Evan J.M. MacGregor to J. Spring Rise, MP for a discussion comparing the relatively "peaceable" masses of freed men and women in Antigua and Dominica to their "violently excited" counterparts in St Kitts. Also see Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy, Johns Hopkins Studies in Atlantic History and Culture, ed. Richard Price (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 101-103 for a brief but thorough discussion of the Guerre Negre riots and its connection to the larger problems with the transition to free labor on that island.
56Dyde, History of Antigua, 164 discusses the fact that the local militia, abolished at the beginning of the 1800s, becomes reintroduced following the scare of the riots.
58Rodney, Guyanese Working People, 221-222.
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